Next Thursday, J. Cole flies to London to begin his second annual Dollar and a Dream tour, playing tracks off his breakthrough 2009 mixtape, The Warm Up. On the phone to discuss these shows, the subject eventually turned to the best show the rapper says he ever attended: Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. On the day of Chappelle’s final Radio City Music Hall performance, here’s how Cole remembers the original event.
Dave Chappelle’s Block Party was probably the most awesome show I’ve ever been to in my life. It was incredible. I was in college at the time — I was a sophomore in New York — and it’s funny that I made it to the screen. I went with my girl to this Jay Z interview with Carson Daly, and there was a little production company that set up all the Carson Daly stuff, and if you signed up with them online they sent notifications for the Block Party, Chappelle’s secret show that was going on. You didn’t know who was performing — there were rumors, maybe the Fugees or something — but I was like, “Hell yeah, you know I’m trying to go to that!”
They were selective on who they let come, but they chose me and I brought my homeboy with me. He was my roommate at the time, and we had to wake up at like five in the morning. It was pouring down rain — we were waiting at the bus stop for like 30 minutes in the rain. We finally got on the bus, we had to take the train all the way to the city. We were coming from Queens, mind you, so we had to go all the way downtown to the financial district to wait a couple hours on these busses that bussed us over to the secret location in Brooklyn.
It wasn’t like an actual block party or whatever, but you knew you were a part of a classic show. It wasn’t even a place where you buy a ticket and you’re like, “Oh, this festival is OK this year.” No, you’re honored and grateful to even be standing where you were standing, because you knew it was something that: A) The rest of the world didn’t even know was happening, and B) they would kill, pay big money to see this. I had never stood so long on my feet in my entire life — 12 hours — and I didn’t complain one time, it was the best fucking 12 hours I ever spent on my feet in my entire life. And yes, that was me trying to raise my hand when he called for rappers. Dave Chappelle was like, “Who raps? We got anybody that raps?” That was me over there trying to raise my hand to get on the stage.
The best set was probably Fugees. That was their first time reuniting, period. At that time they had not been together in years and we really did feel the energy, like “Oh shit, they’re really going to get back together, we’re about to get another album!” But everybody killed it. Kanye came on and he was like, “My name is Kanye West, and I will be the only rapper here today with ice on,” making a joke. Then Black Thought came out with a stupid chain. His shit was icy as fuck, and he just said something slick like, “You thought you was the only rapper!”
It was just hip-hop man, it took me back to being 14, 15 years old, even 18 years old in North Carolina, going to see 9th Wonder DJ at this MC battle or producer battle. It was the top hip-hop moment you could have, being at that show. I’m grateful for Dave Chappelle doing that. I actually was supposed to perform at Radio City, and I’m sad that I’m not performing there.
When the Block Party movie came out I had people texting me like crazy, saying, “Oh my God, I got to see you in this movie,” or whatever. My mom said, “Boy, the camera loves you,” and she always said that. Somehow the camera would always find me in these weird situations.